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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis improves grades on sustainability report card

Published: October 17, 2008
Section: Front Page

Brandeis’ environmental sustainability grade increased from a C to a B- from last year, according to a recently released “Green Report Card” from the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

Brandeis’ grade raise is partially due to a new student involvement category on the report card in which Brandeis received an A.

The university also received an A in administration, an improvement over last year’s B. The administration was praised in the report for President Reinharz’s singing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and for hiring a sustainability coordinator, Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, who is responsible for greening the community’s behavior.

As part of that process, Cohen-Rosenthal appointed student eco representatives for each residence quad to help lead the effort in energy efficiency—something which counted towards Brandeis’ A in student involvement.

Students for Environmental Action was also cited in the student involvement portion of the report card as making effective change on campus.

“Hopefully our A in student involvement this year will inspire students to improve the areas of the report card where we did poorly,” Cohen-Rosenthal said. “If students got interested in other categories, they could make change. Students have more control than they think.”

The university’s grades also improved from an F to a D on shareholder engagement, and from a C to an A on Investment priorities.

The university’s grade remained the same in the five other categories in the survey; transportation, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, and endowment transparency.

The report card was completed through Cohen-Rosenthal and other related administrators filling out an online survey over the summer.

Cohen-Rosenthal attributes the fact that the university’s grade did not improve in some categories to the survey’s timing.

“We had to fill it out before we had zipcars on campus and before we knew what we were doing with the water bottles,” she said.

Because of this, she believes that next year’s grade will be higher.

In addition to the report card, Brandeis also received an honorable mention award for being a “champion of sustainability” for the Green in the Ivory Tower course’s work with building a community garden with tenants at Prospect Hill, Waltham’s affordable housing complex.

Cohen-Rosenthal said she was surprised that the university received the award because its project was less complex than those of other schools, however she said it was nice for the university and its students to be recognized for their community involvement, for which there is no grade.

SEA president Matt Schmidt ’11 said that he hopes that by the next report card, Brandeis will have reduced its bottled water consumption, and that therefore the university’s grade will improve.

As for the overall grade, Schmidtt said he was content, but not ecstatic.

“We moved up, so that’s exciting, and they don’t give out A’s, only A-‘s, so we’re pretty close to the pack,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want to get a B- in a class.”